When your pack exceeds 100 members, blue and gold banquets tend to run long — sometimes very long. Two years ago, Pack 500 in Wake Forest, N.C., held a banquet so long that one entire den went home well before the program ended. “They were the first ones to get their awards, and they left before the Tigers even got their awards,” says Bear Den Leader Gary Itenson. “We were very upset about that.”
Itenson, who also does Family Friends of Scouting presentations for the Occoneechee Council, knew his pack was not the only one with bloated banquets. “You go into these blue and golds, and the kids are just running around in circles and the parents are like, ‘Are they done yet?’ ” he says.
When his den took over planning for last year’s Pack 500 banquet (responsibility for major events rotates among the dens), Itenson made some major changes, including putting all the announcements in a slideshow, not in the script, and filling the time he saved with a performance by a troupe of Japanese drummers. His ideas will help you talk less, communicate better, and keep boys and parents entertained at your pack’s blue and gold banquet.
Getting to the (Power)Point
For his banquet, Itenson spliced together photos of recent pack activities, slides announcing upcoming events and a World Friendship Fund video (in keeping with the event’s theme, which was world Scouting). To ensure that parents saw the informational slides, he interspersed them with photos of Cub Scouts in action. They had to keep watching, he says, because “maybe one more picture of their kid may come up.”
Itenson showed each informational slide only once, but you could easily loop the slides throughout the banquet. Even then, of course, you’ll need to communicate more details in other ways, such as through your pack newsletter, handouts or social media.
What should go on informational slides? Start with the event name and date, a brief description and the name of the volunteer in charge. Also, let parents know what they need to do next, whether that’s signing up by a certain date, calling the event chairperson or waiting for a mailing with more information. And be sure each slide stays up long enough for people to read it and maybe scribble down notes.
Placemats and Puzzles
Like many packs (and most kid-friendly restaurants), Pack 500 created placemats to entertain boys and siblings when something exciting wasn’t happening on stage. “We did a word search and had the Scout Oath and Scout Law and things like that on there,” Itenson says. “The placemats kept them busy coloring; crayons are cheap.”
You can find countless puzzle generators online. A good example is Discovery Education’s free Puzzlemaker (discoveryeducation.com/puzzlemaker). Just enter your word list and puzzle size, and the site generates a puzzle and an answer key. (It even screens the fill-in letters for inadvertent bad words.)
Since parents get placemats too, you can also use them to communicate important information. That could mean promoting upcoming events or including reminders about the pack’s website and other communication channels.
And here’s one more idea: If you want boys and parents to pay attention to the people on stage, include a bingo card that lists words and phrases they’re likely to hear during the program: “day camp,” “Mr. Ramos,” “Arrow of Light,” “popcorn,” etc. After the program ends, give candy or small prizes to any boys with completed bingo cards.
Get With the Program — or Not
While many packs hand out printed programs or agendas at their banquets, Itenson chose not to do so. “We had so much entertainment through the evening that they didn’t need to know,” he says. Plus, he realized that people tend to check off agenda items — and mentally check out — as the closing ceremony approaches.
If you follow Itenson’s example, it’s important to give den leaders and other presenters cues for when they need to come on stage. (Travel time is one of the biggest schedule-busters at blue and gold banquets.) You could distribute agendas just to those adults, include that info in your slideshow or have the master of ceremonies announce which den should get on deck while another den is on stage.
Of course, if you do provide printed programs, you can use space there for announcements and other key information. Just be sure your placemat and program work in concert rather than needlessly duplicating info.
The bottom line, Itenson says, is to remember that the blue and gold banquet is a family event. “You can’t expect a 3-year-old to sit through two or three hours; if the sibling is upset, Mommy’s going to be upset and everybody’s going to be upset,” he says. “You’ve got to do something [to save time], even if it’s running the slideshow during the entire event while you’re talking.”